by (name withheld by request)
Editor's note: The author is currently living in Western Europe. A GoFundMe has been established to support him as he seeks work. Please consider a donation: https://www.gofundme.com/help-save-my-friend-t039s-life
I was born into a rich family. My father was a retired police officer and a business man in farming and my mother is a prophetess in our church. I was born with sickle cell disease, which caused me to feel weak and inferior to my classmates. I am also gay.
I started having feelings for men at age 12. I was beaten and expelled from high school after I was found with a classmate in the bushes on the school premises by another classmate, who said it was an abomination. Our teacher was waiting for us at the entrance door and took us to the staff teacher room; an assembly was called to disgrace us in front of the whole school. I was told to place my hands flat on a long table and was flogged. I cried and was left with painful marks on my back, and the same went for my partner. We both went home, and a notice was sent to my mother. She cried and took me to church and and asked native doctors to cleanse me.
I was forced to fast for 7 days without food and beaten with a broomstick. I was in pain, and weak. I was also taken to a native doctor who forced me to drink a bad-smelling concoction. All what I faced never changed me, because I can't take my eyes off men.
I gained admission into university, where I found a true, long-term love relationship. We had sex secretly and called each other romantic names like popcorn, baby and sweetheart behind closed doors. We stayed together from 2009 to 2013. But we were separated by the NYSC (National Youth Service Corp); we were posted to different states. I traveled to see my boyfriend on my birthday in 2014 and it was fun after being separated for so long.
Then, in October, after placing calls, texting and using WhatsApp chat, I suddenly couldn't reach him. I panicked. I decided to travel to check what's going on. Near his house was a football field and suddenly I was attacked by a mob who yelled "he's the one - we saw nude pictures on his partner's phone." I started running and they chased me, screaming "we must kill him, we just killed his boyfriend." I fell and was hit with a hot piece of an iron rod; it left a mark on my leg and when I see it, it makes me remember what I faced in my country and I cry. I passed out and when I opened my eyes I found myself in a dump. I manage to crawl like a dog to an abandoned house. I saw a woman passing and called for help. I still had my NYSC identity card hanging on my neck. I went home, which my parents weren't expecting.
I told them I was attacked by a group of people when I went to check on my boyfriend, who was killed. My father gradually went onto the floor and held his chest. He died on November 25, 2014 in the hospital from cardiac failure. A few months after, I was to inherit my dad's properties (four houses, cars and company farms) but my father's family called for a meeting and said that before I could take charge I needed to marry and have a children, because I could die anytime due to my sickle cell disease.
Instead, I applied to the Air Force because I didn't care about the inheritance; I just wanted to be who I am. I passed the exams but I was removed because of my health condition, which was very painful. A few months later, I was at home, and I opened the door and two strangers asked for my mother, but she wasn't around. They covered my head with black cloth and tied me inside a car. What I saw next was my father's village. People took me to the shrine; it smelled of dead animals. They tied me down tightly and rubbed my body with blood and beat me with palm leaves. I passed out. When I opened my eyes there was nobody beside me. I used my teeth to untie the rope around my hands and used my hands to untie my legs. I ran as fast I could till I got to a gas station, where I rested for a day. I called a friend in Lagos who was my class governor in university and went there to hide. When I called my mother she cried and told me not to call her phone and that her movements were being tracked, and that I should stay in hiding.
In April 2017, my friend and cousin helped me travel to the U.S. I went for the interview at the U.S. embassy in Lagos and I was granted a visa. I flew into JFK on June 1st; it was my mother's birthday but I couldn't wish her happy birthday.
When I arrived in the U.S., I was afraid of the guns I saw, and was in pain. I tried to explain to the officers that I was sick but they insisted that I would be fine. They said I had to go back my country, but I said no, that I would be kidnapped and killed. I fainted and was rushed to Jamaica Hospital in New York City. I spent 4 days receiving treatment while my arms and legs were handcuffed to the bed. I cried bitter tears: is this how I am welcomed after what I have been through? The nurses encouraged me, but the officers didn't care. They believed I was a criminal, even though I never committed any crime in my country. I'm just looking for freedom, for liberty.
I was then sent to a detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where I stayed for a year. Living there was hell; they think people coming there are criminals or committed a crime in their country. My experience there was full of crying and depression. The food was rubbish, the bed was very bad, and I was always in pain. I nearly went mad.
We worked for $1 a day, and the guards insulted us, like we were not human. They never once encouraged anyone, but the volunteers at First Friends, Ilana and Seth, helped by talking to us, giving us words of encouragement. She is such a good and kind person, as is Seth, and they helped me to be strong. But still we were filled with negative thoughts and depression, in pain both mentally and emotionally. We cried, alone, depressed; alone, without freedom. We were rarely given towels and sometimes we had to buy them ourselves at the commissary.
When I was taken out of the facility, my hands and legs were cuffed - like I was a criminal. A child wanted to approach me but her mother rushed over and stopped him from getting close to me - like I was a criminal. I am not a criminal. I cried my eyes out.
How do I cope in detention when I have a clean record in my country but just want the freedom to be gay?
To the ICE officers, happiness is deporting detainees. I lost my case and appealed and lost and was not allowed to appeal again. The third time in court they said I would be deported in 30 days.
When I arrived back to Nigeria, I was interrogated and searched. They found my documents and learned I was gay. I was put in prison for 3 days to face court charges that would put me in prison for 14 years. Fortunately I was bailed out by my brother.
If I am granted asylum, I will be a gay activist and also visit people in detention. If I had the opportunity I would be an immigration attorney and defend those who face torture, pain just like me. And also write a true story of my life for other gay people to read. Lastly, I will build a house and make my mother happy because she is the only hope I have in my life. Even though she disagrees with my lifestyle she accepts me the way I am. I want her to enjoy life. I want her to live a long life.
Sometimes I pray to God to take my life, to sleep and never wake up again.We live to face problems, but die to rest and have peace.